Monday, April 27, 2009

Fuller Seminary's Production of Man of La Mancha

Back at the dawn of the new millennium, when I was a part of (and later the chair of) Fuller's student Arts Concerns Committee, we had a dream — a pipe dream, perhaps — of putting on a dramatic production at Fuller. A real production, not just some five-minute sketch such as we'd often seen done at the annual "Fuller Follies." Sadly, that proved to be an impossible dream at the time, as we simply didn't have the resources (in terms of time, talent, nor finances) to accomplish such a feat.

This past Friday night, through the efforts of students and staff in Fuller's Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts (an entity just in the process of coming into existence back when our little group was thinking about drama), I was able to attend the opening performance of Man of La Mancha. Besides being the realization of a long-held dream (even though I ultimately had nothing to do with its coming to fruition), this was special to me for another reason: when I was in high school, our Seniors did a musical production every year. I really wanted to do Man of La Mancha back then, and was rather disappointed with the play that we actually ended up doing. So, in a sense, seeing Fuller put together Man of La Mancha was the realization of more than one "impossible dream" for me.

I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed myself immensely, and that the production was very well done. Special recognition needs to go to director Valerie Mayhew, who got everyone from audition to performance in the span of less than two months, to say nothing of her efforts in imagining how the costumes, sets, and music would all fit together in the performance venue (La CaƱada Presbyterian Church, with an additional charity performance at the Laguna Playhouse tonight), which she presumably had been working on for much longer. Since I'm under the impression that nearly everyone involved was a volunteer, and had to schedule this preparation around regular work hours, this is especially noteworthy. Although my college drama troupe was able to put a play together in a comparable amount of time, I honestly feel that I had more time to devote to such efforts back then, not having an 8-5 job to worry about (living on campus didn't hurt, either!).

Any criticisms I have are minor, and are only mentioned here because I very much want to see this endeavor be a success, so that future dramatic productions may be considered by the seminary. When my wife and I were at a local Starbucks about an hour before the play, I was disappointed not to see one of the Man of La Mancha fliers on display on the community bulletin board there. It is, of course, possible that such fliers had been posted elsewhere in the community, and that I simply didn't see them, but this was definitely an effort that I would have liked to have seen advertised more fully outside of the Fuller campus. Also, I would have appreciated some time set aside after the production for a discussion forum with the director, and maybe some of the actors and other relevant people, to talk with the audience about issues raised by the play. This would have been especially appropriate given the seminary academic context. For example, a primary question raised by the play is about the appropriate response to the harsh realities of life. Was Don Quixote wrong to imagine himself a valiant knight seeking to fight for noble causes? Would he have been better off to have simply accepted who and where he was? Do Christians have a particular responsibility to accept practical reality, or conversely, to respond to the world through a particular lens?

I truly hope that Fuller is able to continue doing dramatic productions like this one, perhaps on an annual basis. Perhaps these very minor issues can be addressed in such future productions. In any event, I'm glad that this one was done, and wish to thank all those involved in making it happen.

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